Thinking about going outdoors but need to figure out what tent weight for backpacking to aim for? While there isn’t a one-weight-fits-all/perfect backpacking tent weight, there are criteria that you can think about and apply your circumstances to that will give you a pretty good idea of the adequate weight.
We go through all of these in our article.
Key Factors that Affect Tent Weight
This refers to the backpacking tent weight once the tent is packed (i.e., not set up).
A smaller backpacking tent will naturally have a lower weight than a larger tent simply because it will have fewer materials (for example, less canvas area). For clarity: all things held constant, a two person backpacking tent will be much smaller (and thus involve way less materials and fabric) than a four person tent.
This is related to the point made above: a backpacking tent with more floor space will be heavier than a tent with less floor space simply because it involved more materials and fabric when it was made.
Bodyweight of the Campers
This shouldn’t come as a surprise: if the weight per person is higher, your backpacking tent will have to be bigger and more resistant so that the tent will be heavier. You need more materials for the extra space (like in the above cases), and the type of materials will differ (more resistant materials such as tent poles are heavier).
The Different Classes of Backpacking Tent Weight
Heavy: 4.5+ Pounds | 2+ Kilograms
Lightweight: 3 – 4.5 Pounds | 1.36 – 2 Kilograms
Ultralight: less than 3 Pounds | Less than 1.36 Kilograms
While heavy backpacking tents are the most comprehensive option, they are only sometimes the best tents, given all the weight you will have to carry. If you’re getting started camping, we would not recommend this for your first backpacking tent.
Heavy tents are usually fully featured, offer unparalleled weather protection comfort, and are made of resistant materials.
These are a great bet if your next camping trip is in Winter and the weather forecasts indicate heavy rain; or if you’re camping with your family and want an extremely comfortable experience.
As the saying goes, “there are no free lunches” and heavy backpacking tents’ comfort and weather protection characteristics are provided on the back of their heavy weight.
This is fine if, for example, you’re going with friends and you can rotate who carries the tent or if you’re going to the campsite by car and only have to set up the tent once.
However, if you plan on using no car and changing camping spots every week, a heavy tent will unlikely be a good choice.
Lightweight tents offer a good balance between weight and comfort and tend to be two person tents.
These have an excellent backpacking tent weight (lower than heavy tents due to the different materials used) while retaining good features such as comfort and ample interior space.
If you’re camping in the Spring or Summer and don’t require much comfort, these are your best bet.
The weight savings versus heavy tents naturally come at a price.
Because the lightweight materials it’s made of are less resistant, a lighter tent will not withstand harsh weather conditions as well as a heavier tent would. They likely can resist rain, but not if it’s pouring or snowing and the wind is blowing strongly.
Remember: “There are no free lunches” in life.
These are the lightest weight tents and are usually chosen by campers whose priority is to save weight.
With most ultralight backpacking tents weighing 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms), you will barely feel them in your backpack, making them perfect if you’re planning hopping spots very often and solo camping or with a friend with an ultralight tent.
Having such low weight comes at a price: ultralight tents tend to provide fewer features (less headroom, interior space, and comfort, only have 1 door) and are considerably less durable and resistant than other types of tents.
These are, by all means, not winter tents and can withstand even less harsher weather conditions than lightweight tents.
Finally, an ultralight backpacking tent is usually a one person tent.
Bonus: UTS – Ultralight Tents on Steroids (AKA ultralight shelters)
These are rare backpacking tents, but it’s still important to briefly mention them.
These are normally below 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms) and are non freestanding tents, meaning they are set up via trekking poles and need to be fully staked out (with no tent poles).
A UTS usually is a single wall tent, combining in one single layer the rain fly and the tent body (these are separate in double wall tents).
If you’re still a camping beginner, we would avoid these and choose double wall tents over a trekking pole tent.
So What Is the Ideal Backpacking Tent Weight?
The short answer is that no perfect backpacking tent weight suits everyone’s needs.
We can only show you the possibilities out there and the pros and cons that each one entails, but ultimately, even though most tents tend to be lighter tents, selecting the right backpacking tent is up to you.
When browsing through backpacking tents, you will have to consider your needs and how your camping trip is going to be and triangulate the different data points (how many people are going camping, the weather forecasts, how much headroom, floor space, and comfort you want, etc.) to find the adequate backpacking tent.
Nonetheless, keep reading for more helpful information to make this choice easy!
Packed Weight vs. Trail Weight
This often confuses new campers, but that is important to clarify, as when buying your first tent, you want to get the weight correct!
Put in simple terms, packed weight refers to the whole thing: the complete weight of the tent & accessories. It includes the weight of all the gear.
Differently, trail weight is always lower than packed weight as it doesn’t include the weight of a storage sack, stakes, extra guy lines, and repair kit (if available). So the trail weight only consists of the weight of the main tent body, rain fly, poles, and guy lines.
We often get asked what the minimum weight of a tent is, given we have these two different definitions. The minimum weight is similar to trail weight, as it only includes tent essentials.
You should always check the packed weight because you may not know how heavy some accessories are. If you’ve been camping for a while now, you probably don’t care and don’t need this “minimum weight” concept. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing.
Can There Be Too Much Weight for Backpacking Tents?
Yes. Your backpacking tent can collapse due to excessive weight from heavy rain or snow. It can also collapse due to strong wind.
Naturally, ultralight tents are the most likely of the different backpacking tents to collapse, as their materials are less resistant and strong (their poles are less sturdy, and the fabric is thinner).
So how can you prevent tent collapses? While we cannot guarantee that doing this will prevent collapses ten out of ten times, they will help you immensely.
Ensure that your tent is staked down adequately
Always bring extra guy lines and use them in case of strong wind
When choosing campsites, choosing a spot with high tree coverage will afford more protection to your tent
Note: UTS, given they have trekking poles and are non freestanding tents, are even more likely to collapse, but we are assuming you read the article and are not going camping under extreme weather conditions with a UTS.
Frequently Asked Questions
Any Backpacking Tent Brands You Recommend?
We will write an article about the best brands of backpacking tents in the future; stay tuned!
You Didn’t Mention Any Three Person Tent – Where Would You Include It? And How Much Does It Normally Weigh?
Fair point. A three person tent tends to have good interior space, is usually a double wall tent, and weighs from 3 to 4.5 pounds (so in the category of lightweight tents)